Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Physical Therapist

Christine and myself at Rush outpatient therapy.

The physical therapist plays a pivotal role in the continued recovery and success of an amputee such as myself. Their role is similar to a personal trainer at a gym. My prosthetic legs are for example, like a piece of gym equipment, but if you don't know how to use it, what good is it?

Fortunately for me, I have been provided with two of the most advanced prosthetic legs available today (my gym equipment). The task at hand is learning to use them to their full advantage, that is where a good physical therapist (the personal trainer) is essential. My physical therapist, Chris, has helped me immeasurably.

Chris and I go back to the time I lost my first leg and we have worked together off and on for the past three years. I have been blessed, once again, to be associated with a therapist of her caliber. Chris has the ability to be tough, when necessary, but at the same time be encouraging, kind and a good listener.

She and I have developed a great relationship and I can honestly say I feel she is my friend. Yesterday at my physical therapy session, by the time I looked at the clock, my one hour session was over. I told her how quickly our time together seems to go by, and one of the reasons why is because we are so engaged in what we do and our conversations flow so freely and effortlessly.

I feel the success of a physical therapist is determined by their ability to communicate to their patient, the knowledge they have acquired through their extensive training and education and then be able to relate it to the patient in a meaningful way; thus implementing their words into the patient's actions. Chris is able to do all of those aforementioned things seamlessly while at the same time incorporating humor. She and I have a great time together laughing and joking but simutaneously I am learning and practicing techniques that will help me to walk more proficiently on two above knee prosthetic legs.

Chris is not the only physical therapist who has left a lasting impression on me. Her associate, Katie, another great therapist, has instructed me a few times and she does an excellent job; always willing to listen to my insecurities and provide me with answers that give me the movitvation I need from time to time. Katie was also instramental in getting my guest blog debut in the Rush University Medical Center's blog, "Rush InPerson," going above and beyond her role as a physical therapist. She read the words in this blog, "Life Without Legs" and believed my words should be shared with others--a compliment to me from her that I will never forget.

Before a person even reaches the point of being released from the hospital, after an amputation, stroke or whatever, physical therapy begins almost immediately. The physical and occupational therapists I remember most from my inpatient therapy sessions were Liz and Jenny.

Perhaps being an inpatient therapist presents it's own set of unique circumstances sometimes even more challenging than an outpatient therapist may face.

First of all, they are dealing with patients who are just recovering not only physically but psychologically from their very recent losses or injuries. Patients who are still just coming to terms with what has happened to them.

Secondly, patients like myself, at that time, are still heavily medicated. Being under the influence of strong pain killing medications often affects a patient's attitude and performance. For me personally, of what I can remember, there were times when I feel I wasn't particularily cooperative and even combative.

I have great respect and admiration for inpatient therapists like Liz and Jenny, who understand firsthand what a patient is going through and make the appropriate allowances for the patient's behavior; commendable to say the least.

The importance of physical therapy cannot be emphasized enough. Without physical therapy many patients would never be able to overcome on their own, such things as back injuries or ankle injuries and so forth.

Those of us who have sufffered permanent injury or loss, the role of a physical therapist is an essential part of recovery.

My continued recovery has been made much more pleasant, and even fun because of my therapists both past and present. I am so thankful to have such meaningful relationships with such wonderful people.

If you are a patient, recovering from surgery, stroke or injury it would be advantageous for you to understand and appreciate what a physical therapist can offer you. Establishing a harmonious bond with your therapist will reap you benefits that will last you a lifetime.

My personal experiences have taught me all of these things and more; isn't that what life is really all about, helping each other and passing along the love of one person to another in whatever form?


  1. What a wonderful life changing story. I am very inspired and encourage to pursue and improve my work as an occupational therapy assistant to help others get back on their feet and continue their life happy. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

  2. Now its very easy to contact with doctor .

  3. Thanks for acknowledging your therapist, Glenn! It's flattering to hear such kind words of appreciation from patients. Heartwarming as it is, after hearing this, I'm sure they'll work a little more harder to be of service to patients like you.

    -Lonnie Letellier @ USHealthWorks (Spokane-South-Hill-Center)


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